Raphy Gendler is a recent alumnus of St. Louis Park High School. He has two younger sisters, and has put together a very successful high school academic career. In addition to performing well in class, he also wrote for the school newspaper, something he hopes to continue doing in college.
In his free time, Raphy is active in his Jewish youth group and plays Ultimate Frisbee with his friends. We first met him in 2016, when he came to us for ACT prep.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Not all students have the same skills or perspectives, so individualized lessons often work best. Raphy put it best when he said, “Success looks different for different people, so everyone needs their own strategies.” For Raphy, ACT confidence required strategies that allowed him to do two things:
- Get familiar with the structure of the test
- Avoid “slippery slope” mistakes
Whether he knew it at the beginning of his tutoring sessions, these were the two tasks Raphy needed to complete before he could experience true confidence on the ACT.
Once we knew what Raphy needed, we put together a series of strategies designed to tackle his exact needs. First, we discussed the structure of the test.
- Section 1 – English (75 questions in 45 minutes)
- Section 2 – Math (60 questions in 60 minutes)
- Section 3 – Reading (40 questions in 35 minutes)
- Section 4 – Science (40 questions in 35 minutes)
- Section 5 – Optional Writing (one essay in 40 minutes)
Like most students, Raphy commit this to memory. The knowledge of what comes next was enough to make him feel like he was in control. (Knowing the format is the difference between walking down the stairs in darkness or in the light.)
Raphy’s Strategy for Stopping Mistakes
The next thing we had to do was prevent his “slippery slope” mistakes. Here’s how Raphy put it:
When I watch sports and the player passes the ball out of bounds, they tend to get angry and do it again. The same goes for test questions. When I mess up an answer, I often get to an easy question and do it again. Just about everyone gets questions wrong. That’s okay. It’s the second and third mistake that really kill you.
For Raphy, mistakes sometimes snowballed. That’s bad for his overall score. To prevent this from happening, we had to slow him down. The strategy was simple: “After ten questions, I put my pencil down. I take a five second break, take a deep breath, and then I start back up again.”
Introducing this process into his routine lets Raphy reset and creates a break in the string of questions. It’s no longer 75 questions in 45 minutes. It’s ten questions, right now. That’s a lot less stressful.
There were other general test-taking strategies we introduced to Raphy, but increasing his understanding of format and decreasing his speed were enough to improve his confidence. When asked why confidence helped him, Raphy explained that it cuts down on anxiety. “Often, it works as a stress reducer. You’re not stuck talking to yourself, saying ‘Oh my god, oh my god…’
“I think that confidence plays a role on the ACT and in academics. When you can think to yourself, ‘I’ve got this,’ then you do way better.”
Couldn’t agree more, Raphy.
What’s Next for Raphy?
Confidence-based ACT prep rewarded Raphy with a six-point gain to his composite score, more than enough to get him into his number one college choice. In the fall, Raphy is entering his freshman year at Cornell University, where he’ll study Industrial and Labor Relations.
To learn more about Raphy, or to see the entire transcript from our interview, head on over to his Student Story page here.